The Labor Day holiday is the unofficial start of autumn. I’m sure the kids returning to school has something to do with that. For landscape professionals and do it yourselfers, however, it’s the start of a busy season. Fall is for Planting is more than a clever marketing slogan. It’s a clever slogan to remind you that some of the best weather for planting deciduous trees and shrubs, perennials and spring flowering bulbs is yet to come.
As the dog days of summer give way to the warm days and cool nights of autumn, the rain also returns. The result is perfect growing weather for deciduous trees and shrubs to get established in their new home before winter descends upon them. Spring plants don’t really have this establishment time before they start to battle summer heat and drought.
Next spring, fall plants will break dormancy and begin growing several weeks before spring planting can get underway. Because of their earlier start, last fall’s plants require less care during the summer than spring plants. That means less watering and, possibly, less fertilizing, saving you both time and money.
Herbaceous perennials can also be planted or dug up and split in fall. And spring flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips must be planted this fall if you want them to bloom next spring.
Wait until late spring, however, to plant evergreens. They retain their leaves or needles and don’t go completely dormant. Fall planting can result in unsightly winter burn, unless you apply anti desiccant. Also, wait until spring to plant perennials like butterfly bush and big leaf hydrangeas that flower on new wood. Otherwise, you’ll have to prune the old wood away in the spring to allow new wood to grow.
Planting in fall is no different from planting in spring. Select a planting site whose conditions are right for the plant you select. Remember – right plant, right place. Dig the planting hole two to three times bigger than the rootball, but only as deep. If potted, remove the plant from its pot. If balled and burlapped, remove the wire basket or rope but leave the burlap around the ball.
Set the plant in the hole and backfill, stopping occasionally to press the backfill to fill in any air pockets. Do not pile soil up against the trunk. Finally, mulch and water well. Only trees planted in a windy area may need staking. Try to avoid this practice.
If you want to be sure you have winter hardy plants and the right plant is planted in the right place, you can turn to our landscape professionals. Then all you need to do is sit back and enjoy your new plants this fall, next spring and for years to come.
Most nurseries and garden centers order fresh, new plants for fall planting. They are probably arriving now. If plants look like they’re left overs, don’t buy them. Or, if you are looking for a bargain, you may be able to negotiate deep discounts on those that survived for last spring and summer. Personally, I’d rather pay full price and get new stock.